Union criticises government for failing to introduces statutory duties on company directors

Failure to introduce tougher laws for company directors who do not follow safety rules has cost workers lives, according to a report UCATT.

The report, Bringing Justice to the Boardroom, criticises the “voluntary approach” to health and safety currently used by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

It coincides with the launched of new voluntary safety guidance for directors, released by The Health and Safety Commission (HSC) and Institute of Directors (IoD).

UCATT said the HSE had “deliberately distorted” their own research.

It said HSE claimed 79% of companies appointed a director responsible for safety since voluntary guidance was introduced in 2001, when really the figure applies to a “few very large companies” with over 4000 employees. The union said only 44% of companies have actually appointed someone.

The report also said there is a 25% reduction in accidents when a company takes action at board level.

Ministers rejected union calls to make directors personally liable for safety breaches when the corporate manslaughter and homicide bill was passed in July.

Alan Ritchie

Alan Ritchie, general secretary of UCATT, said: “This damning report demonstrates the government’s failure to introduce statutory legal duties forcing directors to take responsibility for their companies health and safety policies, is literally costing workers their lives.”

UCATT said failure to introduce statutory legal duties has led to few convictions of directors and senior managers. It said seven have been convicted in the past five years, despite a death toll of more than 200 workers.

The report also said the HSE’s Regulatory Impact Assessment into the costs of introducing statutory legal guidance underplayed the financial benefits by a tenfold figure.

Michael Clapham MP, chair of the all party occupational safety and health group, said: “This report should be required reading for all those who argued against the need to make director’s directly liable for company’s health and safety failures. It is essential that Parliament have the opportunity to revisit this matter at the earliest possible opportunity.”

The report was commissioned by UCATT and written by the Centre for Corporate Accountability.